Thursday, 6 September 2012

The Gospel in Dramatic Verse

Here's the Gospel - the Gospel in the "wide sense" of the Biblical doctrine of the theological use of the law, justification by grace through faith and the good works that follow as its fruit - in dramatic verse, courtesy Shakespeare (as we're getting into the habit of quoting the bard here ;0) ) [bolding mine]:
The quality of mercy is not strain’d,

 It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven Upon the place beneath:

 it is twice blest; It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:

 ‘Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes The throned monarch better than his crown;

 His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,

 The attribute to awe and majesty, Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;

 But mercy is above this sceptred sway; It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,

 It is an attribute to God himself;

 And earthly power doth then show likest God’s When mercy seasons justice.

 Therefore, Jew, Though justice be thy plea, consider this,

 That,in the course of justice, none of us Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy;

 And that same prayer doth teach us all to render The deeds of mercy.

 I have spoke thus much To mitigate the justice of thy plea;

 Which if thou follow, this strict court of Venice Must needs give sentence ‘gainst the merchant there.

 William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, Act IV, Scene 1

Of course, there's more; Shakespeare omits to mention the atonement of Christ, but that should be taken as understood in his cultural-historical context and, after all, he was writing a play not a theological tract, although this is a very theological dialogue, deriving the origin and blessedness of mercy in the attributes of God. Unhappily, the foundations of Christian doctrine are no longer so readily understood in today's culture, and neither, presumably, is Shakespeare.

Update 15.09.12
I posted this when I was preparing a Bible Study which I titled "The Gospel According to William Shakespeare". I've since completed that study and presented it twice to a positive response. It's given me the idea of writing a book on this topic, although that project may have to await my retirement before its completion!

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